Mt. Vernon Register-News

November 1, 2007

Genius in disguise

I had an interesting conversation with Sarah Sledge of Cedarhurst earlier this week about one of the artists whose work will be on display starting this weekend at the Administration Building.

The collages, which Sarah said are more like mosaics to her untrained eye, were created by Breese native Jerome Schmidt under the pen name of Adoni Chevez.

It seems Mr. Schmidt, who died last year at the age of 75, was a bit eccentric. No one knew he was an artist until they went into his house and found literally thousands of art works in watercolor, pencil, pen and ink, crayons and the collages. He lived alone over his course of his life, never went to high school, but frequented the local library. Each day he would visit his aunt to get a warm meal and in the winter to warm up because he didn’t have heat or running water in his home.

Sarah said Schmidt created about 300 collages, and of the 20 to 30 that will be on display at the Administration Building each is created with “teeny, tiny” bits of colored paper.

“He had to have some tiny, sharp scissors,” Sarah commented.

The sad part of the story is that during his lifetime, no one knew the genius he was harboring and the beautiful work he was creating. Marching to the beat of a different drummer, Schmidt lived his 75 years quietly and was probably ridiculed by many.

The old adage, “Never judge a book by its cover” came to mind as I was talking with Sarah. I’ve never liked it when someone makes fun of other people — not the good-natured ribbing that friends engage in, but the kind designed to put others down.

You never know who might be the person who really does have all the answers or who will discover a cure for horrible illness or create the next masterpiece.